Coral Reef

Coral Reef
"Consider each reef a cathedral..." Image of Lighthouse, Ribbon Reefs, Great Barrier Reef, by Richard Ling

Thursday, August 1, 2019

A Summons

Anthropocene: the dream of dominion 
    achieved. The sweat of our forebears 

subdued the earth. The epoch of Adam
    is done. Today the new age groans 

for a sickness shadows the lands 
    and nets of death deplete the seas. 

So scour the scriptures for holy words 
    to tend the afflictions of earth. 

Listen – set aside your books to hear  
    she speaks her truths in feral tongues. 

In the howling crown of a wildfire, 
    in the crumbling face of a glacier, 

in the cracking of ice on the Arctic Sea 
    a summons comes to humankind. 

Go make an ark of living earth 
    woven from grasslands, rivers, and trees, 

ten thousand arks across the globe, 
    refugia fit for Gaia. 

Make an ark of the boreal forest, 
    an ark of the chaparral. 

Set aside the high desert, 
   keep the tundra intact. 

Consider each reef a cathedral 
    and every swamp a sanctuary. 

Let lawns revert to meadows 
    and plant a billion trees 

for a fever flushes the face of Gaia, 
    her time of trials has come. 

Within this age an Eden awaits. 
    In your hands, the seed. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

On the Idea of Otters

Athens, Georgia
December 21, 2015

Once again I do not see otters 
as I walk my old dog west 
on the loop trail through winter 
woods to shoals and sunset.

I scan the width of gray chop, 
the white froth hugging rocks, 
the slipstreams of submerged 
logs, but all I see is surface 

churn. The sun sets somewhere 
behind layers of gray as I listen 
for the tell-tale chirp. All is quiet 
save the steady shush, so I turn 

back east and follow the brown 
bounce of a hungry dog heading 
toward dinner. Today I missed 
the otters again, though I searched 

with due sincerity. But once on 
an otherwise scripted morning 
in the midst of an unremarkable 
year I watched a romp of river 

puppies swim upstream into fall. 
The sun froze mid-sky as I stood 
on the bank for minutes or hours 
memorizing whiskers and wakes.

Wonders once revealed remain 
hidden. We may glimpse visions.
We may tiptoe into thin terrain, 
but all we keep is absence and 

what spirit haunts an afterglow.
Today I walked an old dog down 
a winter trail to an empty river 
and muffled sunset, and found

they suffice, for I carry the image 
of otters. Ever since their presence 
etched an ordinary day, it’s now 
enough to know they are there.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Daddy's Wedding Meditation

for Sarah Ambrose and Alan Haxton 
Biggleswade, England, January 17, 2019
Athens, Georgia, June 8, 2019

Are the years so short? We blink 
and decades fly. How nimbly 
the little ones move through our lives 
to catch their world in stride.

    Hers was a world of neighborhood lawns, 
    small dogs and swing sets, 
    story books strewn on sofas and chairs, 
    teddy bears piled in pillow forts.  

    It was slippery slides in the summertime, 
    long firefly evenings with friends, 
    dancing to oldies on Daddy’s arm, 
    riding shotgun with Mama out to the farm. 

    There were sunny beaches running with cousins, 
    tidal flats at island’s end, 
    plastic buckets brimming with shells, 
    elaborate castles dug in the sand. 

    From holding hands while hopping waves 
    to body surfing with uncles and aunts 
    and twilight strolls along the strand 
    under a technicolor sky. 

    And those long night drives 
    cocooned in the car’s back seat 
    hurling up the highway to a house 
    bursting with grand-baby love – 

    blue silky snuggles on Grandma’s lap, 
    going on a bear hunt camped on a couch, 
    Grandpa reading on Christmas Eve, 
    cookies for Santa next to the tree. 
      Sometimes in unguarded moments 
      a daughter’s daddy idly dreams 
      about his little girl’s groom-to-be –
      what grounds his life today? 
        He was a boy of Bedfordshire, 
        child of the gentle English terrain, 
        a quiet toddler with dimples and smiles, 
        best pals with fur-brother, Buster. 

        The sweetest smell of childhood 
        was the scent of grease on overalls 
        and boiler-room suits worn by his dad.
        He hugged those legs every day at the door. 

        His husband-potential was praised at four. 
        This earnest, curious, nursery-school boy 
        grew into comics and colorful jokes 
        which he shared for giggles with Mum. 

        There were hours of play at the skatepark. 
        This youth tattooed with amazing bruises 
        manned up enough for a pink guitar, 
        strumming riffs in a grunge-rock band.

        They hit the road in a family car 
        crammed with amps and drums 
        and dreams, four gangly teens 
        driven to gigs by a mum.

        When he ran, he aimed for marathons 
        and found his pace in life. 
        He became the grown-up go-to kid, 
        the one who never lets you down.

          The odds were always astronomical.
          A thousand synchronies seemed to converge 
          on that ugly-jumper Christmas bash.
          Neither came costumed, but he made her laugh 

          then assumed the role of ambassador, 
          guide to the culture of pub-quiz nights 
          and cozy board-game evenings with friends. 
          He even ate vegetarian. 

          And so they became a couple.
          There were pancake dinners in Biggleswade 
          and King’s Cross breakfast dates,
          goofy humor and, somehow, ducks. 

          And those long, loping countryside runs 
          through a green English spring 
          on small lanes and forest paths 
          ending with afternoon tea. 

          For her, it took an Englishman 
          with dimples, scruff, and easy grin. 
          For him, the grace of a big-city girl 
          grown out of the college-town South. 

            In this is the founding of households – 
            every day to love anew. The old 
            will glisten again with the dew, 
            the spent and withered will bloom, 

            and the love that grounded your childhood, 
            the love that united your lives 
            will incline your hearts to happiness.
            Wherever you dwell will be home.

            Photo by David Noah, Watkinsville, GA

            Thursday, May 16, 2019

            Lament for a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

            State Botanical Garden, Athens, Georgia
            April 25, 2019

            He died in the height of a Georgia spring 
            on a garden morning green as Eden 
            when the slant of sunlight warms the wings
            and lifts a feast of flying insects. 

            Far from his tropical winter retreat, 
            he had crossed the Gulf on a perilous night 
            and followed the unfolding canopy north,
            drawn toward summer breeding grounds. 

            But never made it. In a spell of delight 
            he dipped below a break in the woods, 
            swooping and swerving for food, for joy. 
            Wide blue skies were in his sight. 

            The end was abrupt. 
            He banked hard into high glass –
            dead before he hit the ground. 
            Rose-breasted beauty fell at my feet. 

            I cradled his warmth in my aging hands 
            to will his broken body back. My hope 
            was vain billions fall in the flyways 
            in a world diminished bird by bird. 

            Wednesday, April 24, 2019

            Will You Come, Too?

            When you look to the heavens for splendor 
                but encounter the night-black sky 
            with islands of fire singeing an emptiness 
                thinning to void; 

            when you turn to the earth for assurance 
                and consider the moss-bound boulder, 
            witness to endless millennia, 
                parent of pebbles and dust; 

            when you ponder your fragile life, 
                ephemeral as wren-song, 
            tender as scent of jessamine 
                swept by a freshening wind; 

            when you cling to the edge of immensity

            remember your birth. 
                Your conception was always contingent. 
            The odds of your mother were one in a million, 
                her mother much the same. 

            You are the product of astrophysics,
                the toss of quintillion cosmic dice,
            the orderly flow of atoms and energy 
              forged in the cores of stars. 

            And you are a flesh-bound being of light,
                passion-child of chance and law,
            a thirty-trillion-cell machine 
               of spit and dust, and dreams. 

            Though the force of disorder breaks over all 
                and your atoms come unglued, 
            the world in which you never were 
                is not the world that came to be. 

            Woven from a wisp of time, 
                your mind was made to roam 
            where death cannot constrain. Come 
                step beyond the temporal veil 

            to claim the ancient eons 
                before our ancestors evolved. 
            Come face the untold epochs 
                after our kind has passed. 

            I am the voice of a universe, 
                and you – you are, too. 
            The whole of time is before us.
                Will you come, too? 

            Bubble Nebula - Hubble image by NASA

            Wednesday, March 6, 2019

            Creature of Blood and Bone Saw

            Athens, Georgia
            March 6, 2019

            Well, we had a nice run, 
            my old right hip and me.
            Seventy laps around the sun,

            and so many ecstatic miles 
            of endorphin-spun joy 
            I couldn’t count the cost.

            But I would have been cat food 
            forty thousand years ago, 
            perhaps a snack for a saber tooth.

            Hobbled by a bum hip, 
            I could not have caught a ground sloth 
            or scored an egg from an angry auk. 

            You might have found my tangled heap 
            of dried blood and gnawed bones 
            mixed with gristle and scat. 

            But forty thousand years on, 
            we live in technological times. 
            So I rise from blood and bone saw

            hammered and reamed, teetering 
            on a new titanium hip 
            which once was ore from the Outback 

            reduced in a fluidized bed, 
            superheated to a thousand degrees 
            in a stainless steel retort. 

            Leached, jackhammered, 
            crushed and pressed, 
            then melted with a plasma arc 

            and alloyed with aluminum 
            so its Young’s modulus matches
            my bone – behold 

            the forty thousand dollar man,
            incipient cyborg, titanium hipster.
            By the mercy of insurance, 

            craft of the surgeon, 
            and sweat at the hands of a therapist,
            soon I shall stride again.

            Thigh bone by the author.
            X-ray by Athens Orthopedic Clinic.
            Doodle by David Noah.

            Saturday, February 9, 2019

            Prayer at Forty Thousand Feet

            While Flying Home from my Daughter's Wedding
            January 20, 2019

            It is minus sixty C outside 
            when the headwind hits a hundred. 
            The whole plane shakes. I scrunch 
            inside an airline blanket, 

            catnapping across the North Atlantic. 
            I nibble on gnocchi and mild cheddar, 
            nurse a lukewarm ginger ale, 
            and study the seat-back screen 

            inches from my face. Call me 28J. 
            My world is a shuttered tube 
            encased in a rumble inside a dull roar 
            tracing the twilight arc toward home.

            Old Blighty is hours behind.
            Below, an unseen ocean. We track 
            northwest, laying a trail of carbon 
            over the top of the troposphere. 

            Screens flicker. 27G smiles 
            as a dinosaur eats an actor.
            24E comforts her child. 
            29H reads a real book. 

            Outside my portal, the full wolf moon 
            burns through high crystal haze. 
            Some forty thousand feet below, 
            a blue-white coast slides by. 

            Strangers in Nuuk are watching 
            the sky. Back in Biggleswade, 
            my daughter and her Englishman 
            are braving the evening chill.

            People I love live north now,
            so I pray for the polar vortex – 
            may its circle be unbroken 
            and bottle up the Arctic air. 

            And I bless the Gulf Stream – 
            may it meander north forever 
            and carry the warmth of Georgia 
            to my new-forged family abroad.